Hi Amelia! So first, I see you’re currently based in Nashville — how long have you been there?
I just moved to Nashville about two and a half months ago, so not long.
What first interested you in seriously pursuing art?
I don’t feel like I truly started to take my work as a painter seriously until after I received my BFA and started working a 9-5 job. I was trying to paint on the weekends and after work as much as I could, however I could never find enough time to really dig in. I began to get a strong sense that I really needed to give myself a chance as an artist. So I saved up a bunch of money, quit my job, and moved to a small town in Michigan. I gave myself six months to do nothing but paint. It was really lonely but so crucial to who I am now as an artist.
Do you have any significant influences or things that inspire you?
So many things motivate me, however it is hard to put anything specific into words. I feel like making work is my way of communicating, and if I don’t make anything for a while I feel lost.
Can you tell me a bit about your practice, or your process?
My work is very process oriented. I never really know what something is going to look like or be when I begin. It all develops one decision at a time. I often work on a few pieces at the same time so I can move between them when I feel stuck or unsure of my next move. I really strive to be open when I am working, not to over think too much or over work something. I try to let things be, and that often requires stepping away from something for a while.
The first thing I notice about your work is a dynamic color and form relationship, which becomes sculptural often. Are you interested in that boundary between 2D and 3D?
I have thought about that a lot in past. When I painted more representationally I really thought of the canvas as kind of window into another world. When I began to switch to abstraction I never thought of the canvas like that again. From then on I thought of my work as something that only represented itself. That shift caused me to see my painting more as a 3D object than a flat plane.
I’m also really intrigued by some of the images of gallery installations I’ve seen; how does the exhibition space influence your work?
When working on an installation I begin to see the space and everything I want to put in it as one big piece. I want the viewer to feel like they are entering another realm. My goal is to transform the space so that it becomes something else and hopefully the viewer forgets they are standing in a gallery. It is really rewarding for me to have the ability to take the bulbous, cartoony forms I reference in my work to a larger scale, bringing them into a life size realm.
What is your studio like?
I have turned our third bedroom into my studio space. I like the idea of renting a space away from home, however I find that I get more work done when I don’t have to go anywhere. My studio is always messy. I keep a lot of coloring book scraps, fabric, and random objects that inspire me around.
Do you have any routines or rituals?
I don’t have as much of a studio routine as I would like. If I feel stuck I will sometimes tear up old coloring books to generate new compositions and drawing ideas.
You also just earned an MFA in 2015 — how was your first year or so been out in the “real art world?”
I went to a three-year program, so by the end I was more than ready be out of academia. However, it was jarring to balance my work with a full time job. I quickly had to adapt to not having endless stretches of time to paint and think about my work. I also found it hard to suddenly be making work with no feedback. In theory it sounds great, however when you become used to critiques and suggestions from those around you, it can be hard to find your own voice again, and trust in your instincts without outside reassurance.
As it’s probably still relatively fresh in your mind, what was the most valuable thing you took away from your MFA program?
The most valuable part of graduate school was the friends and mentors I gained through the experience. When you go to graduate school you become part of a community of makers and thinkers. I think that is a crucial part of sustaining a creative life, having people in your life who support you and understand what you are trying to accomplish by choosing to be an artist.
Is there anything you wish could have been done differently (either by you, the program, etc)?
Not in terms of graduate school. I do wish that I had taken my work more seriously as an undergraduate.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
This isn’t exactly advice but it’s a phrase that I heard an artist say once (I can’t remember who), they said, “I finally learned how to make the work I needed to make”. I think about that phrase a lot, and how I feel like I am finally starting to get to a place where I am making what I want to make. I’m not quite there, but I’m getting closer. That sounds really simple but sometimes it can be so hard to get to the core of what you want to do and just do it.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of doing what you do?
The connections and conversations I am able to have with other artists.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
No exhibitions in the immediate future. However, a project that I have recently started is a podcast that I co-created with a fellow artist called con.fab.u.late. We talk to artists and art professionals about their lives and work. You can find us on iTunes if you are interested in checking it out.
Find more at ameliaamberbriggs.com!
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